All about your knees. We are well into summer now and the past few weeks have seen heat wave after heat wave. I’ve had some issues with my knees and my left hip is giving me trouble so working out has been a challenge, to say the least. We recently took a trip to the mountains and while the climb up wasn’t a problem (although a major workout), the climb down brought tears to my eyes as I felt my knees giving out with each step that I took.
I had them checked out and they are actually fine and the fact that I workout regularly is absolutely what’s saving them. Of course, I need to be careful and if pain persists, I need to keep track of that but regular stretching and muscle building is the key to healthy joints.
ALL ABOUT YOUR KNEES
KEEP THOSE BONES STRONG
You should always be taking care of your body but this is especially important when you are experiencing some issues.
Calcium & Vitamin D. If I had a penny for every time I saw a commercial on tv telling me that I need to take calcium supplements to help strengthen my bones. The other piece of this equation is Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the calcium.
Healthy diet. We know that dairy contains calcium and many of these options are also fortified with Vitamin D, but you can also get calcium from broccoli and leafy green vegetables as well as beans and tofu. Another great option are sardines which contain both Vitamin D and calcium. Want more options? Think egg yolks, salmon and tuna.
Vitamins and minerals. In addition to the obvious calcium and vitamin D, you also want to make sure that you aren’t deficient in magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and other vitamins and minerals. If you suspect that your diet isn’t adequately providing your body with all the necessary ingredients then it’s probably a good idea to go do some general blood testing.
Read the full article: HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR BONES
STRETCHES & EXERCISES FOR KNEE PAIN
Going on the assumption that your knees are in good condition and you don’t have an underlying medical issue, the best way to keep them healthy is to ensure that the muscles surrounding them are doing their job.
Hips. One key to having healthy knees is to have proper mobility in your hips. The easiest way to check this is to lie on your back, arms out to the side with both legs straight on the floor. Lift your right leg up to the ceiling. If you can lift it to 90 degrees without either leg buckling or rotating or knee bending then your hips are sufficiently mobile.
Hamstrings. It’s time to take stretching seriously now. Place your right foot in a strap or band and gently pull it up to the ceiling until you feel some resistance. Make sure your legs are not rotating and your hips are straight (yes, even if you can’t lift your leg as high). Hold this stretch for 20 seconds. Now bend the same knee toward your chest. Without lifting your knee try to straighten your leg (don’t worry, it won’t stretch very far) you should feel a deep stretch in the belly of your hamstring muscle. Hold for 15 seconds and switch legs.
Pigeon. Sitting on the floor, bend your right leg so that your foot is touching your left thigh or is in a parallel position in front of you. First, sit up straight opening your chest to the ceiling. Hold for 20 seconds. Then, slowly hinge your body forward and if you can, reach your arms out on the floor in front of you. If you are more advanced, try pulling your back leg toward your glutes. Hold for 20 seconds and switch legs.
Frog. Don’t do this if it bothers your knees or ankles. I like to place a blanket under my knees to cushion them. Supporting yourself on your hands let your knees slide out to the sides while keeping the soles of your feet together. Let your upper body lie flat while you relax into this pose. Hold for 30 seconds.
Ankles. Oftentimes a lack of ankle flexibility can also negatively affect your knees. I admit that if I wasn’t dancing I would probably never think of my ankles, but because they are stabilizers, they should be strengthened on a regular basis. To find out if your ankles are flexible, lie down on your back with your feet flat against the wall at 90 degrees. Now try to pull your toes back (your heels shouldn’t move). If you can’t then you definitely need to work on that. Roughly one inch is good and more is even better.
Knee bends. Stand, on your right foot, about an inch away from a wall. Yes, you can hold the wall for support. Keeping your back straight, the goal is to try to touch the wall with your knee without letting your heel lift off the floor. Do this slowly 10x and switch feet.
Point and flex. Channel that ballet dancer in you. This exercise is best done with a resistant band. Place the band over your foot. Gently pull on the band to create some resistance and then point and flex your foot slowly. Try spreading your toes and really focus on working through your whole foot. This exercise is great because it both stretches and strengthens your feet and ankles. Do this 15-20 times on each foot.
Plie. Essentially, this is a turned out version of a squat, but it’s all about the technique. It can be done in a ballet first position with your heels together and your toes turned out, or in second position standing in a turned out position with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Staying tall and keeping your abdominal muscles engaged, bend your knees ensuring that they point over your toes. Bend as far as you can without your heels leaving the ground and then straighten. As you straighten, think about squeezing those inner thighs together. Repeat 10 times in each position.
Releve (aka calf raises). See above for your positions, but now instead of bending your knees, you will engage your quads and rise up high on your toes. Repeat 15 times in each position.
Rond de jamb (aka leg circles). Lying on your side (same instructions as above), lift your leg about 12 inches into the air and without moving your torso, do small circles. Do 10 circles clockwise and 10 circles anti-clockwise on each leg. If this is easy, take it up a notch. Start by kneeling on your right knee with your right hand on the floor beneath your shoulder. Lift your left leg up so that it is in line with your body and do your circles in the air, 10 on each leg.
Curtsy (aka cross-over lunges). A true ballet curtsy is a bit tricky, but this is a great variation on that. Cross your right leg over in front of your left leg so that you are on the ball of your left foot. Keeping your back tall, bend both knees and straighten. Do 8 on each side.
As with any workout, your technique matters, so take your time while doing these moves. Focus on pointing your toes and really engaging those leg muscles. Of course, dancers spend hours and hours repeating these movements, week after week, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t reap some of the benefits.
In additions to the exercises it’s also important to regularly ice your knees and to give them a break when needed.